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Examining the Media’s Representation of Atrocities, II: Dylann Roof

Examining the Media’s Representation of Atrocities, II: Dylann Roof published on No Comments on Examining the Media’s Representation of Atrocities, II: Dylann Roof


The media will underplay the ideology that motivates a white person if they commit an atrocity, blaming emotional issues instead. Let’s put this to the test.

Following an earlier article where I examine whether the media blamed Islam for the Orlando shooting, it seems apt to examine their presentation of atrocities wherein the killer was white. Specifically, I want to look at the Charleston Church Shooting, perpetrated by Dylann Roof. In my previous article, I went to the major networks in the USA, searched for keywords relevant to the crime on their sites, then visited the top 5 relevant articles on each site, recording each mention of the relevant ideology and how it was presented.

I’ll do the same for Dylann Roof, and his ideology: white supremacy. Specifically, I want to see if the thesis of the meme below (that, if the shooter is white, ideology is conspicuously absent from coverage) is borne out.


The Results


Dylann Roof, Charleston Church Shooting Suspect, to Face Death Penalty: Prosecutors

  • Mention of Roof’s plans to foment race war: ‘Roof is white and appeared in photos waving Confederate flags and burning or desecrating U.S. flags. He purportedly wrote online of fomenting racial violence, and federal authorities have said he used a personal manuscript in which he decried integration and used racial slurs to refer to blacks’

Charleston Church Shooter Dylann Roof Appears in Court

  • Mention of hate crime and racism: ‘The horrific church massacre is being investigated as a hate crime. Police say Roof espoused racist ideology.’

Accused South Carolina Church Shooter Dylann Roof Wants to Plead Guilty, Lawyer Says

  • Mention of white supremacy: ‘Roof, who authorities say frequented white supremacist websites and took photos of himself with the Confederate flag, has reportedly confessed already.’

Racist Website Appears to Belong to Charleston Church Shooter Dylann Roof

  • Mention of white supremacy in the first paragraph: ‘A website featuring a 2,444-word white supremacist screed shows dozens of photos of the gunman arrested in the Charleston, South Carolina, church massacre.’

Charleston Church Shooter Dylann Roof Was Loner Caught in ‘Internet Evil’: Family

  • No mention


DOJ will seek death penalty for accused Charleston church shooter

  • No mention of ideology, but mention of motive: ‘black people was taking over the country.’ [sic]

Charleston church under fire for mass shooting payouts

  • Mention of racism: ‘Police said Dylann Roof was motivated by hatred for blacks and wanted to start a race war.’

Friend of alleged Charleston shooter pleads guilty

  • Mention of motive/racism: ‘ “blacks were taking over the world” and “someone needed to do something about it for the white race.” ‘

S.C. lawmaker sends Confederate flag Christmas card

  • No mention, other than to link Roof with the flag: ‘Lawmakers voted in July to remove the Confederate flag that had flown on the Capitol grounds for 50 years in response to the fatal shooting of nine black parishioners in a Charleston church. The suspect in the shooting, Dylan Roof, was seen in photos posing with the rebel banner.’

America’s Mass Shootings [Image slideshow]

  • Mentions racism, hate crime: ‘Pictures of the alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, then surfaced with the suspect posing next to the Confederate flag. The presumed racial hate crime then ignited a national debate over the continued presence of Confederate imagery in the American South and its effect on the larger culture.’


Feds Seeking Death Penalty Against Alleged Charleston Church Shooter Dylann Roof

  • Mention of racism, motives: ‘He was looking to kill black worshippers, with the goal of “fanning racial flames” around the country and as retribution for perceived slights against white people, Lynch previously said.’

Charleston Church Shooting Suspect Dylann Roof Was Apparently ‘Self-Radicalized,’ Investigators Say

  • Mentions self-radicalization: ‘As of now, it appears that Dylann Roof was “self-radicalized,” meaning that he was not believed to be part of a hate group, and acted alone as well.’
  • Mentions racism: ‘Among prognostications about segregation and other racist topics, the writer says “someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.” ‘

Dylann Roof Indicted on Federal Hate Crime Charges in Charleston Church Massacre, Court Documents Say

  • Mentions race, motives: ‘ “To carry out these twin goals of fanning racial flames and exacting revenge, Roof further decided to seek out and murder African Americans because of their race,” Lynch said. “An essential element of his plan, however, was to find his victims inside of a church, specifically an African-American church, to ensure the greatest notoriety and attention to his actions.” ‘

Dylann Roof’s Uncle Would ‘Push Button’ Himself If Nephew Receives Death Penalty

  • No mention

Friend of Accused SC Shooter Claims He ‘Wanted to Start a Race War’

  • Mentions race, motives: ‘A friend of accused Charleston church shooter claims that the suspect had spoken about how he was angered by the uproar over the Trayvon Martin shooting and “wanted something to spark up the race war again.” ‘


Dylann Roof indicted on federal hate crime charges

  • Video, though the title, i.e. ‘hate crime’ indicates that discussion of racism can be found

DOJ investigating Charleston murders as possible domestic terrorism, hate crime

  • Article presents a 404, but the title mentions hate crimes and terrorism

Should Dylann Roof get the death penalty?

  • Mentions racism: ‘ “Dr. Jeffress, are we dealing with evil? Are we dealing with a chemical imbalance? Is this a psychiatric issue? He had indicated both on Facebook and to his friends that he had this intention, he had these evil racist beliefs.” ‘

Rudy Giuliani offers insight on how communities overcome tragedy

  • Mention of racism: ‘ “To his case, they connect to the still remaining ideology of racism.” ‘ [Guest, ex-Mayor Giuliani speaking]

Sen. Tim Scott addresses media’s labeling of mass murderers

  • Discussion of the presentation of mass murderers, numerous mentions of racism


  • Total articles: 20
  • Articles that mention racism: 17
  • Articles that mention white supremacy: 2
  • Articles that mention terrorism: 1


There’s clearly no question that the media explicitly links Roof’s attack with his racist ideology, while two connect it to the grander ideology, ‘white supremacy’. Meanwhile, only two of the articles that I read connected the Orlando atrocity with ‘radical islam’ (2/19). Note, meanwhile, that all the articles from the Fox, often accused of being biased in this area, connect Roof’s racism to his crimes.

So, to respond to the meme, the media most definitely is not blaming Roof’s crimes on emotional issues or some other excuse, rather, they report, explicitly, that his racism caused his actions. I only noticed the use of the phrase ‘lone wolf’ once, though this is circumstantial in that there’s nothing to stop a lone wolf from being moved by an ideology held by others or larger groups.

But don’t forget the flag. After the attack, there were calls from across society and the media to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from, apparently, anywhere were it could be seen. As a result, South Carolina took down the flag from its legislature, while Apple saved lives by banning games that featured the flag from App Store. Is this the behaviour of a society and media that seeks to obfuscate the ideology of atrocities committed by white shooters? Or is it the behaviour of one so keen to stress the importance of racism and even virtue-signal to the extent that they ditched a flag (who’s relevance to the massacre was tenuous at best).

However, is the coverage still unfair to some extent? Of course, we’re not comparing like for like here, as the question for the Orlando coverage was whether they were blaming Islam, while racism wasn’t Roof’s religion. Is it fair, therefore, that 9/19 articles that reported on the Orlando shooting mentioned Islam, while 0/20 articles on Roof mention his Lutheranism? (From what I’ve read, Roof was observant and I haven’t found anything to suggest he was secretly otherwise.)

To keep this focused, I won’t compare the presentation of Islam and Christianity by the media in their coverage of these crimes, but this definitely warrants exploration. The KKK, explicitly Christian (though universally shunned by churches) is still active, though a shadow of its former self. Meanwhile, according to Daily Wire, Islamic Scholar Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar visited a mosque near Orlando, the Husseini Islamic Center, giving a speech wherein he called for death as the penalty for homosexuality.


Admittedly, my methods here are crude, but I think it’s better to be crudely systematic than to make claims by memory or by feeling: I think that this is actually the problem to begin with. This is to say that many people feel like the coverage is unfair in a particular way, so they assume that the coverage should, necessarily, fit the story in their mind. Thus, it doesn’t matter whether the media is being unfair – all you need to do is convince people that it is, and the results will be the same.

We find ourselves in the position wherein we can all be heroic warriors, doggedly advancing despite media lies working against us. I have no affection for the mainstream media, but this is a worrying trend in that it represents another excuse for people to ignore stories outside their comfort zones or from media outlets that contradict their own narrative.

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

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